Photo/IllutrationTyphoon-hit vehicles remain overturned beside the Sakishima office of the Osaka prefectural government in Osaka’s Suminoe Ward on Sept. 5. (Kenji Tsuji)

The Japanese expression "ishi-okoshi" (literally, "picking up stones") denotes gale-force winds, primarily those that blow in the spring, that are powerful enough to make stones fly.

But Typhoon No. 21 brought winds that could be called "kuruma-okoshi" (picking up motor vehicles).

I shuddered at the images of cars that were not only knocked over, but blown away as well.

A car is a chunk of metal, and even a compact vehicle must weigh close to one ton. But despite the heft, parked vehicles could not withstand the ferocious winds, and crashed into other cars around them.

Power transmission poles were knocked down, scaffolding at construction sites fell apart, and shards of broken glass came showering down.

In a single blow, literally, objects that we depend on in our daily lives were transformed into weapons.

Kansai International Airport, sitting on a man-made island in Osaka Bay, suffered a crippling shutdown after a tanker, tossed around by strong gusts, rammed into and damaged an access bridge connecting the airport to the mainland.

More than 3,000 people were stranded at the airport, without any power for lighting or air conditioning. I can only imagine their anxiety and fatigue while they camped out at the airport overnight.

I would like to believe that Japan has made advances in disaster preparedness over the years.

In the Muroto Typhoon of 1934, the path and strength of which were said to be similar to those of Typhoon No. 21, more than 3,000 people died or went missing.

In the Second Muroto Typhoon of 1961, the toll was 202.

Typhoon No. 21 killed more than 10.

Continued efforts must be made to eventually bring the number down to zero.

The old expression "nihyaku-toka" (literally, "210 days") implied that a typhoon would likely strike around the 210th day after the spring equinox.

This was a kind of folk wisdom, acquired over decades, before modern weather-forecasting technology became available.

But in this day and age of advanced meteorology and data processing, we have the luxury of being able to plan and prepare in advance. And in that sense, the decision by West Japan Railway Co. (JR West) and others to suspend train services, well ahead of time, was something other transportation companies would be wise to emulate in the future.

After torrential rains in western Japan in July, it is as if typhoons and extreme heat waves are taking turns to keep assailing our nation.

We can no longer say that a disaster may strike anytime, anywhere. The new reality today is that a disaster is always actually occurring somewhere in Japan.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Sept. 6

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.